Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rusting old vessel Selkirk's nightmare

Mayor desperate to get rid of ship grounded for 23 years

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Larry Johannson remembers cruising on the MS Lord Selkirk II a dozen times with his family when the ship was built in 1969.

Now, the Selkirk mayor says it's time for the grounded vessel to go.

"It's almost like seeing a parent suffer in the hospital," he said recently. "It's a rotting hulk of a ship."

The Lord Selkirk sailed the Red River to Lake Winnipeg for nearly 20 years and welcomed the Queen on her royal visit in 1970. It was known as the biggest cruise ship between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains.

Since 1990, the Lord Selkirk has been stuck on city grounds, an eyesore for locals. The City of Selkirk cannot remove the ship because it doesn't own it.

The owners are believed to be living in the United States.

"It's a huge eyesore in our beautiful park," Johannson said.

"It's a tragedy waiting to happen and I'm worried it will be on somebody else's shoulders. I don't want to see that happen."

Last year, the Lord Selkirk was set on fire by some teenagers. Since then, Selkirk city council has been pushing to get rid of the cruise ship altogether.

The vessel is also a hazard to the environment.

"There's lead paint flaking off and fluids such as oil that have not been pumped out of the ship since it stopped running," Johannson said.

Under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Transport Canada can only force the removal of an abandoned ship if it blocks or prevents navigation on a federal waterway.

But the mayor has started asking the provincial and federal governments for help.

James Bezan, MP for Selkirk-Interlake, has been looking into the vessel's removal since 2004.

"Ultimately, the onus is on the owner of the MS Lord Selkirk II to remove it from the slough," said Bezan. "It's my understanding that the owner has engaged the services of Global Scrap Solutions to accomplish that task."

Under the act, the cruise ship can also be removed if the owner is unknown. However, owners of the Lord Selkirk have been contacted in New Jersey. Johannson said the owners promised to have the ship removed by the end of May -- nearly three weeks ago.

elizabeth.fraser@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2013 A10

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